Anyone who watched the State of the Union Address is probably aware that immigration may very well take a prominent position in congressional action this coming year. Both President Barack Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) have signaled a desire to get border and immigration reform underway. Following Wednesday’s Address, the President gave an interview on CNN that aired Friday in which he hinted he might be in favor of a bill based on the principles recently released by House Republicans and Boehner. The caveat worth noting — and that the President seemed to reference — was that Republicans are set on offering legal status, but not an expedited method of gaining citizenship.
“If the speaker proposes something that says right away: Folks aren’t being deported, families aren’t being separated, we’re able to attract top young students to provide the skills or start businesses here and then there’s a regular process of citizenship, I’m not sure how wide the divide ends up being,” said Obama to CNN. He spoke positively on Boehner’s understanding of the situation, saying he felt “encouraged” to see that, “Mr. Boehner and others seem to recognize our country will be stronger if we are able to resolve this issue in a way where, you know, kids, for example, who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are Americans but don’t have the right papers are not being punished.”
That said, he did note that, “The principle that we don’t want two classes of people in America” is not one that should be difficult for either party to agree with, but left wiggle room in his rhetoric for signing a bill that might not go quite as far as some Democrats might wish in regards to citizenship options.
The New York Times obtained a copy of the Republican’s immigration outline, which explained how citizenship would work should legislation pass. “There will be no special path to citizenship for individuals who broke our nation’s immigration laws — that would be unfair to those immigrants who have played by the rules,” it reads, according to the New York Times. “Rather, these persons could live legally and without fear in the U.S., but only if they were willing to admit their culpability, pass rigorous background checks, pay significant fines and back taxes, develop proficiency in English and American civics,” and support their families sans the help of any public benefits.
The Republicans in Congress are understandably motivated, having had major pressure placed on them by business executives and donors who threatened to cease contributions to the upcoming elections if Republicans didn’t start making moves on immigration reform. This could help explain to a certain degree, the enthusiasm the issue has wrought in the House. In the past, immigration reform has seen something of a blockage — i.e. the agricultural policy bill shot down in June of last year. Boehner later hired Rebecca Tallent, former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to advise him on immigration, taken as a sign that he had immigration in his sights.